Buying a car online vs in person at a dealership
Negotiating face to face or surfing the web: Should you buy a car online or at the dealership?
Part of buying a new car is deciding where to shop for it. You can visit a dealership in person to test drive vehicles and negotiate face to face. You can also choose an at-home experience by buying a car through an online automotive marketplace or online dealer. This guide covers all 3 options in detail, so you can make the best choice for your personal situation.
Online dealer vs online automotive marketplace vs in-person dealership
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Pros and cons of buying a car online vs at a dealership
Consider the following pros and cons when buying a car from an online dealer vs an online automotive marketplace vs an in-person dealer.
|Buying a car from an online dealer|
|Buying a car from an online automotive marketplace|
|Buying a car at an in-person dealership|
When to buy a car online
You’ll usually want to buy a car online in the following circumstances:
- You want a specific make and model. You may want to shop online if you’re looking for a specific type of car since it may not be available from a local dealer.
- You’re looking to compare prices. Buying a car online lets you compare prices for similar vehicles. You can shop across large inventories with multiple providers to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
- You want a hassle-free experience. Shopping with an online dealer lets you pick a car, pay for it online and get it delivered directly to your doorstep. There’s no need to leave your house or deal with pushy salespeople.
- You don’t need to test drive. You’ll get a trial period to try out your new car with an online dealer, but there are no test drives. You can usually go in person to test drive if you shop with an online automotive marketplace.
When to buy a car at a dealership
You may want to buy a car at a dealership in the following situations:
- You want to shop in person. Shopping in person lets you kick the tires and inspect vehicles with your own eyes. You can also ask the dealer questions in real-time and apply for in-house financing if you can’t afford to pay in cash.
- You’d like to test drive multiple cars. You’ll be able to test drive multiple cars on a single lot to find the best fit for you. This means you can get a good feel for how a car drives before you buy (unlike with online purchases).
- You don’t mind working with a salesperson. Salespeople can be extremely helpful, but they can also be pushy when they want to make a sale. You’ll want to make sure that you know how much you’re willing to pay and how to haggle on prices before you head to the dealership.
- You want to drive home on the same day. Dealers typically want to make a quick sale to move their inventory off the lot. This means they’ll work hard to get you into a vehicle and to drive home on the same day you visit, with affordable in-house financing if you qualify.
Where can I buy a car online?
The benefits of shopping for a car online can vary based on the website you’re using. Each one is different, and one might suit your needs more than another. Here are some sites to get you started on your journey towards finding the right vehicle:
|Get a more complete list of online dealers here|
Steps to buying a car online vs a dealership
Follow these steps to buy a car online or with an in-person dealer:
Steps to buying a car online
- Figure out your budget. Compare cars of the same make, model and year to figure out how much you should pay. Start with sites like Canadian Black Book and CARFAX to get average car prices. Learn more about how much car you can afford.
- Pick a seller and filter your search. Decide if you want to shop with an online car dealer or automotive marketplace. Explore the online inventory for the seller you choose to find vehicles you’re interested in.
- Decide how to pay for your car. Pay with savings or apply for financing with your seller. Most online dealers offer in-house financing options, along with some automotive marketplaces. Find a car loan that meets your needs.
- Pay for your car. You’ll pay for your car online using a credit card or regular online banking withdrawals with an online dealer. You can typically pay in person with cash, online banking or an Interac e-Transfer with an online automotive marketplace.
- Figure out delivery or pick up your vehicle. If you’ve ordered your car completely online, you’ll usually need to arrange for delivery. If you purchased a car from an automotive marketplace, you can typically drive it away once you pay.
- Get registered and insured. Find out the requirements to get registered and insured in your province. This will usually be done for you if you sign up with an online dealer.
Steps to buying a car with a dealer
- Decide how much you’re willing to pay. Make a budget and figure out exactly how much you want to pay. Stick to this number when haggling with the dealer to make sure you don’t pay more than you can afford.
- Find a local dealer with solid reviews. Search for local dealers and compare reviews to make sure you pick a trustworthy company. Your best bet is to visit 3-4 dealerships before deciding on a car to make sure you get the best deal.
- Explore the online inventory if available. See if you can find an online inventory for the dealer you’re interested in. This will help you figure out if there’s a vehicle you’re interested in before you visit in person.
- Visit the dealer in person. Visit the dealer and ask for a salesperson to assist you. Give your dealer your specifications and they will show you different vehicles and help you decide which ones you want to test drive.
- Pay for your car. Select the car you’re interested in and pay for it with cash or apply for in-house financing.
- Drive off the lot. The dealer will usually help you set up your insurance and registration on the spot, so you can drive home that day.
Should I get financing from the dealership or an online lender?
How online auto financing works
You can apply for financing through an online lender with a simple 5- to 10-minute application in most cases. Apply for car loan pre-approval with a few different lenders to find the one that offers the best rates. Then, you can choose to take that financing to pay for your vehicle or use your pre-approval to negotiate a lower rate with your online or in-person dealer.
In most cases, you won’t be able to use online auto financing to buy a car from a private seller. You may also have issues qualifying if you have bad credit.
Compare car loans you can apply for online
How dealership financing works
Car dealerships often work with lending institutions or use their own money to give you in-house financing. It’s possible to get a good deal from a dealership in Canada because they want to lock in a quick sale, and some dealers get a preferred rate from banks for giving them a high volume of applications.
To find the best deal, you may want to consider pre-qualifying for financing with an online lender so you know how much you should be paying. You can use this to negotiate your rate down if the dealer offers you a higher rate. You’ll get approved fairly quickly with a dealer and you can drive off the lot on the same day you start shopping in most cases.
How does auto financing impact my credit score?
Most pre-approval car loan quotes will only do soft pulls on your credit, which doesn’t impact your credit score at all. When you actually submit an application for a car loan, whether online or at a dealership, the loan issuer will do a hard pull on your credit, which will temporarily drop your credit score.
After the first pull, your credit score won’t continue to go down if you allow multiple hard pulls for the same type of loan within a certain time frame (typically from 14 to 45 days). Credit bureaus don’t penalize you for shopping around for the best rate because it proves you’re trying to be a responsible borrower.
Frequently asked questions
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